Friday 24 May 2019

Trump did not collude with Russians, says Mueller report

Special counsel refuses to press accusations of obstructing justice against the president

Ebullient: President Donald Trump talks to the media about the Mueller report at Palm Beach Airport in Florida en route to Washington. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Ebullient: President Donald Trump talks to the media about the Mueller report at Palm Beach Airport in Florida en route to Washington. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Ben Riley-Smith in Washington

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation could not find evidence that Donald Trump's campaign "conspired or co-ordinated" with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, the US Justice Department said.

Mr Mueller also investigated whether Mr Trump obstructed justice but could not come to a definitive answer, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to Congress summarising Mr Mueller's report.

However, the special counsel "does not exonerate" Mr Trump of obstructing justice, Mr Barr said, and his report "sets out evidence on both sides of the question".

Despite this, the president claimed he had been "completely exonerated" of collusion and obstruction of justice.

Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington from a weekend at his private club in Florida, Mr Trump said "it was a shame" the nation had to go through the investigation.

He claimed the report found "there was no collusion with Russia, there was no obstruction".

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his wife Ann, walk past the White House after attending St John’s Episcopal Church for morning services yesterday. AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his wife Ann, walk past the White House after attending St John’s Episcopal Church for morning services yesterday. AP Photo/Cliff Owen

He also lashed out at the investigation, claiming without evidence that it was "an illegal takedown that failed".

After consulting with other Justice Department officials, Mr Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined the evidence "is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence".

Mr Barr released a four-page summary of Mr Mueller's report yesterday afternoon.

Mr Mueller wrapped up his investigation on Friday with no new indictments, bringing to a close a probe that has shadowed Mr Trump for nearly two years.

Republicans rowed in behind the president after the summary was published. On Twitter, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders echoed her boss's claim he had been completely exonerated.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham added that "the cloud hanging over President Trump has been removed".

Mr Graham, a close ally of Mr Trump, also said it was "a bad day for those hoping the Mueller investigation would take President Trump down".

Republican Doug Collins said "there is no constitutional crisis" while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also a Republican, said "it is time we move on for the good of the nation".

Eric Trump, the president's son, called for a "simple apology" from the media for "the hell everyone has been put through" during the two-year probe.

But the Democrat chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Mr Mueller "clearly and explicitly is not exonerating the president".

Jerry Nadler tweeted that Mr Barr's letter to Congress says that while Mr Trump may have acted to obstruct justice, the government would need to prove that "beyond a reasonable doubt".

But Mr Nadler tweeted that Congress must hear from Mr Barr about his decision-making and see "all the underlying evidence for the American people to know all the facts".

Top Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said Mr Barr was "not a neutral observer" and they urged the full release of the report.

Ms Pelosi, the House speaker, and Mr Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said Mr Barr's letter to Congress "raises as many questions as it answers".

In a joint statement, the leaders said Mr Barr's past "bias" against the special counsel inquiry showed he was "not in a position to make objective determinations".

They say that "the fact that Mueller's report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay".

Several Democratic presidential candidates also insisted Mr Mueller's full report must be made public.

Irish Independent

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